Blues 3-0 Oxford University (25-22, 25-19, 25-22)
Kelsey Kerridge, 19/02/2011
Having comfortably defeated Oxford twice already this season (3-1 at home and 0-3 away) in the BUCS midlands league, Cambridge were clear Varsity favourites for the first time since 2006. However, the Dark Blues have maintained a Varsity winning streak that stretched seven years, including heart-breaking five-set thrillers in 2006, 07 and 08. So for the Light Blues the battle looked to be a largely psychological one. In the event the result never looked in doubt, a confident performance sweeping Cambridge to a dominant straight sets victory.
Cambridge coach Jean selected the experienced outside hitters Petra Schwalie and Alice Hsieh; opposite hitter Barbora Doslikova; setter Anna Protasio and middle blocker Maddi Sowash (captain) to start the match. The other middle blocker and the libero positions were filled by (postgraduate) first years, Debbie Deng and Ana Tufegdzic Vidakovic, respectively. Amidst a nervy start from both teams Cambridge quickly pulled away on the back of some aggressive serving from Protasio, before a stuff block from Doslikova on Oxford’s opposite hitter Jana Orszaghova brought up 6-1. An uncharacteristic service error from Protasio let Oxford off the hook and they gradually closed down the lead with service pressure of their own and strong counter-attacking from their wing hitters. However, the high-risk serve strategy also resulted in errors, halting Oxford progress at key moments. Crucially, the third such serve error brought Protasio back to the Cambridge service line. Oxford had glimpsed the lead at 13-14 but an attack error and two consecutive aces forced Oxford coach Jon Williams to call his first time-out. The momentum was with the home team and another Oxford time-out was required at 21-15 to stem the Light Blue tide. A short-lived fight-back brought them all the way to 24-22 before a Cambridge time-out steadied the ship and Deng finished the next rally with a kill off the block.
Set two started better for the visitors as they opened a small lead but neither team looked settled, service then handling errors tied the scores at 6-6. This time Doslikova took over the service line bombardment and put her team ahead, forcing two shanks and another hitting error. Oxford had been relying on their outside hitter Rebekah Sidall and Orszaghova in attack and one rotation later both were both in the back line; Cambridge pounced. A perfectly executed slide-attack from Deng brought loud applause from the 100+ spectators and Oxford called a time-out to compose themselves. This did little to stop the Deng show and two further transition kills put her team firmly in charge at 13-8. Sadly the entertainment value of the match dipped as both shades of blue then embarked on a serve error spree that included a run of 5 on the trot, adding to the total of 11 for the set. On a more positive note, Cambridge first year Christiane Smyrilli made an impressive varsity debut after replacing Hsieh at 20-14. She scored with her first touch of the ball, beating the block with a left side attack resulting in another Oxford time-out. A fortuitous yet elegant mis-hit from Oxford’s middle-blocker Cassie Huntley won the side-out before Smyrilli scored again with her more convincing arm swing. The Cypriot was to finish the match with near perfect figures of 7 kills from 8 swings and 6 perfect passes from 8 attempts. But it was the Cambridge middles who wrapped up set 2, a first tempo attack from captain Sowash closing it out 25-19.
The start of set 3 finally saw more consistent siding out from both teams until Schwalie broke the deadlock with consecutive kills. A short while later Oszaghova struck back with three of her own to wrest the initiative. But she seemed the only potent Oxford hitter and with time the broader range of Cambridge attacks took its toll and the home team crept ahead. Doslikova, Deng and Smyrilli were all contributing both back- and front-court and Oxford had to call a time-out 14-12 down. This did little to upset the Light Blues, now brimming with confidence and the reliable Schwalie could be rested, making way for another talented rookie, Ksenia Osmjana, who scored with her first shot and brought the score to 23-20. With the finishing line looming, Oxford depended on the cool head of their seasoned campaigner, Orszaghova, who made a brave kill through the block. A nervy Cambridge error saw the lead drop to a single point and Coach Jacquet had to call a time-out to settle his team. The Light Blues fluffed their first attack and a scrappy rally ensued, Oxford once again turned to their go-to hitter but this time Osmjana was ready, stuff-blocking her senior rival to the delight of her team and supporters. Oxford gave away their next attack and Osmjana duly delivered the coup de gras; the old foe defeated in straight sets, celebrations could finally begin.
MVP (as voted by oxford): Anna Protasio
Report by Jean Jacquet
|Name||Position||Sets Played||Attacks||Kills||Kill Percent||Aces||Blocks||Pass||Total Points|
|Debbie (Bin) Deng||M||3||21||9||43||0||0||9|
|Alice (Pei-Shan) Hsieh||O||2||9||2||22||0||0||2|
|Ana Tufegdzic Vidakovic||lib||3||0||0||0||0||0|